Springbok (n.). “An antelope-gazelle of Southwestern Africa.” This grazing animal is a fitting symbol, I think, for midtown’s newest gastropub whose South African fare is best experienced by slowing nibbling on plates small and large. At press time the menu is fairly limited, but what is on offer has already won rave reviews and has enabled Springbok to meet its explicit mission: “Serve delicious, affordable food that guests will want to return to week after week.”
Although deviled eggs are a common fixture in starter sections of Houston restaurant menus, Springbok’s Devil’ish’ Eggs stand out from other versions for their garnish of candied bacon and jalapeno. The combination of sweet crunch from the bacon and sharp heat of the pepper makes you smile and sweat simultaneously, while an endnote of salty creamy egg prevents either flavor from singeing your palate. More nationally-specific appetizers include the chicken sosaties, a type of South African skewer meat served in with diced pineapple and pappadew relish. Simple but addictive also are the slap chips, the country’s take on fries (slap means “soft” in Africaans). With a creamy potato interior and crispy skin, these chips are the perfect medium for a few light sprinkles of vinegar. If you prefer to graze, as springboks do, on greens, try the asparagus salad, an artfully plated assemblage of asparagus, soft-boiled eggs, white farmer’s cheese, and strips of biltong, a cured game meat with a texture similar to beef jerky.
If cutlery usages seems antithetical to the true bar food experience, then opt for the boereswors roll, a thick bun white stuffed with a plump sausage of pork belly and beef whose residual grease is tempered by two boozified condiments, kolsch onions and whiskey mustard. You should deign to use a fork for what is perhaps the crown jewel of the entrees: roasted oxtails. These baseball-sized chunks of bovine tail bask in a sumptuous red curry broth that is partially soaked up by the accompanying oversized Yorkshire pudding. You can eat said puddings with your hands should maintaining decorum and the cleanliness of your clothes not be a concern.
Although the menu is meat-heavy, vegetarians will be more than satisfied with the hearty stew of dark lentils, carrots, and fava beans (you can pair it with a nice chianti, natch). Side dishes, such as gruyère cauliflower gratin and a cucumber zucchini salad, can also round out a meatless meal.
Springbok self-identifies as a rugby pub (see the numerous framed jerseys) though ample large-screen televisions means all sports are, in theory, are possible to watch. One savvy Yelp reviewer described the dark wood interior adorned with animal heads as the “ultimate man cave” but this reviewer balks at the idea that Springbok isn’t fun for “the softer sex.” Like sport and good chow?
711 Main St Unit 1
Houston, TX 77002